CBA wide receiver Andre Dowdell (9) catches a second-quarter touchdown pass in Saturday's Class AA regional final against Elmira. Despite this score, the Brothers, missing some key players due to injuries, lost 24-18 to the Express.
No one on the Christian Brothers Academy football team thought that it would end here.
For the Brothers, anything less than a season that ended on the first day of December at the Carrier Dome, with a state Class AA championship in sight, would leave a trace of disappointment, since all the pieces appeared to be in place for a run to the top.
Yet that was what CBA had to confront Saturday evening at Union-Endicott's Ty Cobb Stadium as it left the field on the wrong end of a 24-18 defeat to Section IV champion Elmira in the AA regional finals.
Short-handed, the Brothers saw the Express wear them down with a relentless ground attack, especially on a long go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter. And when CBA had two chances to answer in the waning minutes, it could not.
In many ways, what happened here was set up by what transpired seven days earlier in the Section III final at the Carrier Dome. True, CBA won that game 19-14 to repeat its sectional title, but paid a dear price for it.
The game left two defensive stars, Aaron Donalson and Sidney Vallery, with injuries that would keep them out of the regional game. Also, the Brothers' star duo of quarterback J.R. Zazzara and Deshawn Salter were hurting, too, but would try to play through the pain.
Now they were facing the Elmira Express. In 2011, the two high schools in that city, Elmira Free Academy and Southside, combined on the gridiron and took the nickname Express to honor the late Ernie Davis, who starred in three sports at EFA before his legendary career at Syracuse University.
Given the origin of the team name, it was only fitting that Elmira built its success on a dominant ground attack, as the Express had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Eli Thomas and Jerry McPeak and fully intended to impose its physical will on CBA.